May 22, 2023
In yesterday’s message, “Jesus Never Said ‘Attend Me’ – The Community that Follows Christ,” Pastor Steve Furr talked about the importance of asking ourselves questions, especially as the Churchis in the thick of another reformation. (Here’s a link to the Messages page on our website if you want to watch and/or listen). One of the questions Pastor Steve said we need to ask ourselves, individually & as the body of Christ, is: “Am I / are we embodying what Christ said about his Church?”
If you’ve been around young children, you know that they are question-generating machines. Our kids were especially fond of the “why” questions, like “Why does it snow? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast? Why are there swear words if we’re not allowed to say them?” (And then there’s the dreaded “Where do babies come from?”)
Paul Harris (a Harvard-based child psychologist) says that a child can ask around 40, 000 questions between the ages of two and four. Other studies show that some 4-year-olds ask as many as 200-300 questions a day. By the time they become adults, that number drops to six!
Not so for Jesus: in the gospels we see him asking questions all the time - upwards of 300! (After all, he is the one who said, ““Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,”” (Matthew 18:3)). Pastor & theologian Martin Copenhaver says that Jesus was 40 times as likely to ask a question as answer one directly, and more than 20 times as likely to offer an indirect answer as a direct one.
We know Jesus was fully human and also fully God, and thus he was all-knowing, so he wasn’t asking questions to get information or to learn how things worked. Jesus’ questions are often open-ended and almost always challenging. Jesus asked questions to help us grow in our faith and to help us to be transformed more and more into his likeness. If you thought being a Jesus follower means you stop asking questions, think again!
John Wesley (1703-1791) is considered the founder of the Methodist movement of which Garfield Memorial Church is a part. He understood the importance for Christ-followers to meet together in smaller groups which he called “classes” and “bands” for learning & personal accountability and he developed a series of questions for self-examination. Of the 22 questions below, I was especially struck by, and have been meditating on today is “Did the Bible live in me today?” (#7).
How about you?
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
- Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
- Can I be trusted?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
- Do I grumble or complain constantly?
May 8, 2023
Yesterday Pastor Chip continued our teaching series “Jesus Never Said ‘Attend Me.’” He preached about how followers of Jesus are people who invite others into their hearts, into safety, into their circle, and to meet Jesus. (If you missed it or want to listen again you can find it on the Messages page on our website.)
When Pastor Chip was talking about inviting others into our circle, he shared the story of Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton. Wanda texted a Thanksgiving Dinner invitation to a number she thought was her grandson's, not knowing that her grandson had changed his number and that the old number now belonged to 17 year-old Jamal. The two figured out the mistake quickly, but Jamal asked if it was possible to "still get a plate." In grandmotherly fashion, Dench responded, "Of course you can. That's what grandmas do." Thus began a tradition that continued for 6 years and counting. When Jamal shared the story on social media he posted screen shots of the text thread and forgot to blank out Wanda’s number. She ended up getting 600 texts from people asking if they could grab a plate too!
When our three sons (now all adults) were in high school, our house was a pretty regular gathering place for them and their various groups of friends. Our home is pretty small and honestly, it’s not great for entertaining but we were happy to provide a place for them to hang out and play video games (and eat a lot of Doritos and other junk food). There was more than one occasion when I had to step around as many as eight or nine young men there for a mass sleepover on our living room floor. Like our sons, the guys are all adults now, some married or with a significant other.
This past weekend our oldest son, Mike, his wife Laurel and their two children, Lizzy (8) and Carter (10) came for the weekend (they live in Michigan near Ann Arbor). On Saturday night we had a bunch of his and his brothers’ high school friends over for dinner (Mike had organized the gathering). We made room for fourteen at the table (actually we had to use two tables!) and enjoyed pulled pork that my husband Joe made on our Big Green Egg. The food was amazing but it wasn’t the most important thing.
What was most important was that fourteen people, of different ages and ethnicities, some of whom hadn’t met before (like the several significant others who came) shared laughter and stories. I think by the time everyone left we were all full, not only from the food but also from the fellowship. For Joe and I, as the “elders” of the group, we were honored and humbled that these “kids” (to us), some of whom are pushing 40, wanted to be together at our home.
Yesterday was Communion Sunday, when we hear and respond to Jesus’ invitation to come to his table where there is room for all, and to share in the bread and cup, to receive his body given for us, his blood shed for us. After communion at the Heritage service we sang the hymn “Now Let Us From This Table Rise”:
Now let us from this table rise
renewed in body, mind, and soul;
with Christ we die and live again,
his selfless love has made us whole.
To fill each human house with love,
it is the sacrament of care;
the work that Christ began to do
we humbly pledge ourselves to share.
May it be so!
April 17, 2023
And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
Yesterday we had 28 people, from babies to older adults, celebrate baptism and reaffirmation of baptism (as part of the United Methodist Church, we don’t rebaptize because we recognize all Christian baptisms), adding to the more than 800 people of all ages who have taken that step since we got the baptismal pool in 2010.
It was a joyous, amazing, holy, exuberant time of worship in both our 9:00 & 10:00 services, with a powerful message from guest preacher Pastor Greg Nettle, “Unexpected Victory.” (Here’s a link to his message, the full 10:00 Mosaic Service and the 9:00 Heritage service in case you missed it or want to re-experience it.)
At the baptism preparatory meeting, we talk about the traditional baptismal vows which are a renunciation of sin and a confession of faith. (We ask these same questions when people join the church (see Happenings below to learn how you can participate in the next Connect short term small group where you can explore church membership & join at the end if you wish).
These vows are couched as questions:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
Reject the evil powers of this world,
And repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
To resist evil, injustice, and oppression
In whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
Put your whole trust in his grace,
And promise to serve him as your Lord,
In union with the church which Christ has opened
To people of all ages, nations, and races?
Those taking these vows (including parents taking them on behalf of babies who cannot take them for themselves yet) are prompted to respond by saying “I do,” which brings to mind wedding vows. As at weddings, there are always tears of joy on Baptism Sunday. During one of the reaffirmations; as I put the water on the person’s forehead, tears were streaming down their face, and I couldn’t tell the water of the tears from the waters of baptism. It was a powerful and beautiful moment.
As we always do, after the baptisms & reaffirmations that we knew of ahead of time, we gave an invitation to anyone who feels so led to come to the waters of baptism. One of those who came forward in response to that invitation at Mosaic was a nine year old young lady named Grace who kept telling her parents during the service that she was feeling she needed to be baptized. Her parents had been talking with her about baptism but they hadn't planned on it happening that day. Grace's mom, Emily, said she was feeling Jesus say "Let the children come" in her heart during this time so Grace came to the waters and was baptized. It was a beautiful, Spirit-led moment!
At our 9:00 Heritage service, we closed with the hymn, “Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters” (#605 in the United Methodist Hymnal). The last verse ends with these words:
We your people stand before you,
waterwashed and Spirit-born.
By your grace, our lives we offer,
Recreate us, God transform.
May it be so.
March 20, 2023
Ministry by Strengths is a short term “On Ramp” small group offered at Garfield several times a year that utilizes the Clifton Strengthsfinder 2.0 personality assessment to help people discover and identify their strengths and also understand and appreciate what others bring to the table. Gallup has identified 34 strengths and in the course of the group we talk about how Jesus embodies all of the strengths perfectly– so as we learn about our own and one another’s strengths we are learning more of who Jesus is.
One of the strengths is called “includer,” which Gallup describes this way:
“’Stretch the circle wider.’ This is the philosophy around which you orient your life. You want to include people who feel left out and make them feel part of the group. In direct contrast to those who are drawn only to exclusive groups, you actively avoid those groups that exclude others.”
Our current teaching series, “Easter on the Margins,” which is taking us up through Easter (you can catch up on or rewatch messages here.), shows Jesus’ includer strength in full force. Jesus can’t bear for anyone to be left out, to remain on the margins. Over and over again we see him seeking & saving the lost (Luke 10:10). Over and over again we see Jesus love and minister to those on the outside, those who are suffering, who are outcasts, who are isolated, those who are hurting and rejected. Jesus invites them from the margins into the center, as he says “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
As we approach Easter, it’s a great time to invite those you may know to come to some of our upcoming events like the Community Meal & Pictures with Baby Easter Chicks & Lambs on April 2 (Palm Sunday) from 11:30 AM-1:00 PM at our South Euclid Campus. We’ll also have packs of Easter Peeps ® that include an Easter invite that you can pick up after services March 26 & April 2 to give away as a “random act of kindness.” These are concrete ways to share in Jesus’ ministry of including others and reaching out to those who may feel like they are on the margins.(See the "Happenings" below for more details).
But maybe you are the one feeling like you are on the margins right now. There are times when all of us inhabit those spaces, when life is overwhelming, when we are grieving, when we feel misunderstood or ignored. Jesus’ invitation to come to him is for you too.
Frederick Buechner wrote, ““The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you. There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
PS Baptism Sunday is April 16 (the Sunday after Easter). One way to celebrate and respond to God's grace is by entering the waters of baptism. You can learn more here.
January 23, 2023
People are strange
When you're a stranger
Faces look ugly
When you're alone (“People Are Strange” The Doors,1967
[Jesus said] “I was a stranger and you welcomed me …” (Matthew 25:35)
This month our Teaching Series, “WELCOME,” has focused on God’s hospitality toward us and our openness to God and others with the scriptural theme “Do not neglect to show hospitality . . . for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (from Hebrews 13:2).
We began with “Welcoming the New Year” on January 1 and have talked about welcoming the Holy Spirit, the Beloved Community, and welcoming & loving our neighbors…ALL our neighbors. (Miss a message? You can see all recent messages here.) On January 29th, Pastor Chip will close out the series with the theme “Welcoming the Stranger.” I’ve been thinking about times when I’ve felt like a stranger, when I’ve felt out of place, when I felt “ugly” and wasn’t sure I belonged . . . and what a difference a warm word or gesture of welcome made. When we welcome the stranger as Jesus would welcome them we are really welcoming Jesus himself. When we welcome the stranger transformation happens. What may have seemed “ugly,” we can now see is beautiful as we encounter and recognize the image of God in others. Our Radical Hospitality teams and Parking Lot Ministers offer that kind of welcome every single week- we’ve heard story after story of people new to Garfield who have come back because someone greeted them in the parking lot or they met someone who remembered their name. (If you’d like to learn more about how to volunteer in Garfield’s Hospitality Ministry- or other volunteer opportunities – click here.)
In February, with Valentine’s Day in the middle of the month, we’ll launch a 3-week series, “Love, Sex & Marriage.” We’ll explore the meaning of marriage, how sex is NOT a four-letter word, and love that lasts a lifetime before our Lenten series leading to Easter, “Easter at the Margins.” You won’t want to miss this practical series!
PS On February 11 you’re invited to meet up with Director of Outreach, Flora Mark, at the Lunar New Year Celebration (year of the Rabbit), anytime between 1:00-5:00 PM at the Solon Center for the Arts (6315 SOM Center Road, Solon, Ohio 44139). This community event is presented by the Cleveland Contemporary Chinese Culture Association, Solon Parks & Recreation, and the Solon Center for the Arts. It’ll be a lot of fun, a chance to connect with new friends and old, and also a way to support and celebrate our Asian brothers & sisters, especially in the wake of the recent mass shootings in Monterey Park & Half Moon Bay, California that are having a devastating impact on this community.
August 9, 2022
This morning as I was drinking my coffee these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to mind:
“We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. We do not finish breakfast without being dependent on more than half of the world … at the table we drink coffee that is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are beholden to more than half the world. . . In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Romans 12:5 says:
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. (NLT)
I am so grateful to be part of a Revelation 7:9 church “of every nation, tribe, people and language,” a church with people of different temperaments, with different strengths (watch for a new session of the short-term small group Ministry by Strengths coming this fall), different political views, different economic situations, different genders & orientations. My life has been immeasurably enriched as I have been able to experience firsthand the “manifold [literally, multicolored] wisdom of God” through walking, working & worshipping with diverse others, and to discover the blessings of belonging to one another.
Pastor Scott began his message on August 7 by sharing about the upcoming 5th Mosaix Global Conference in Dallas, TX, from November 8-10. Our staff will be well represented and Mosaic worship pastors Justin, Dre & Leah will be part of the worship team gathered from all over the country. This conference takes place every three years and this will be the 3rd time I have the privilege of being part of it. I have learned so much from the nationally recognized leaders and the workshops. This year’s speakers include Rich Villodas, Derwin Gray, Soong Chan Rah, Korie Edwards, Albert Tate, as well as Oneya Okuwobi and Naeem Fazal who have spoken here at Garfield several times.
In 2019’s Mosaix Conference Albert Tate said that you need to have “the multiethnic church in you for it to come through you” and that “reading the menu isn’t the same as experiencing the restaurant.”
We are inviting you to consider attending the conference this year and “experience” the restaurant in a special way as several Garfield members have over the past 9 years. There is registration and hotel information on our website here. You can also go to mosaixconference.com for more details.
July 11, 2022
I turned off my social media notifications last week. Gmail & text notifications may be next.
It started when I was driving to church one Sunday a few weeks back and I was struck by the beauty of the sky. As I looked at the clear beams of sunlight piercing through the clouds, suddenly these words from Psalm 19 surfaced:
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 10:1-4, ESV)
I felt like I had gotten a “notification” from God reminding me, in a very visible way, of God’s glory, beauty and majesty.
I remembered my mom singing the hymn “This Is My Father’s World” as she was cooking in the kitchen as she so often did when I was a kid. (She loved to sing, though she couldn’t carry a tune, a trait I’ve inherited): "This is my Father's world; He shines in all that's fair; In the rustling grass, I hear him pass; He speaks to me everywhere." I had a moment of worship right there on I-480 East.
Suddenly I wondered how many “notifications” from God I miss every day. The glowing red dots on my phone are constantly beckoning me to click to see what's new (and, according to neuroscientists, get a dopamine hit in the process.)
I'm not alone. Recent research reveals that, on average, Americans check their phones 344 times per day, compared to the findings of a similar survey conducted just 6 years ago reporting that people checked their phones an average of “only” 47 times per day.
Dr. Anna Lembke, an expert on addiction, says today's phones are “the ‘modern-day hypodermic needle’: we turn to it for quick hits, seeking attention, validation and distraction with each swipe, like and tweet.” Dr. Lembke urges people to “make space in our brains to let our thoughts wash over us rather than constantly seeking stimulation,” calling this a “new form of asceticism.” 
For me, it’s more a call back to an ancient form of ascetism, a call to intentionally turn my attention to (and back to) God throughout the day. Brother Lawrence talked about this as “the practice of the presence of God” back in the 1600’s.
Do I still check my phone regularly? Yes- probably too often- but these days I am being intentional about being more attentive to the ways God speaks - through Scripture, creation, worship, and myriad other means - so that I am not missing (for at least not missing as many of) God’s “notifications."
April 11, 2022
Yesterday, starting at 11:30 AM, hundreds of people from the community started to stream into our South Euclid Campus for an incredible Easter party with lunch, the chance to take pictures with baby Easter chicks, a free meal, and kids’ activities like face painting, crafts & games. By 12:30 there were about 300 children, youth and adults there, many of whom were at Garfield for the first time, and people continued to come. (You may have caught Channel 5 News covering the event yesterday!)
Pastor Scott told me about a conversation he had at table with a man who came with his kids. They recently moved to Cleveland and it was their first time at Garfield. He said that a lot of times when he’s gone into a church he feels like he’s encroaching on someone else’s territory, but that when he came into the building someone gave a warm welcome & took him right to the party!
As I talked to people- some of whom I knew, and some I was meeting for the first time- I found myself once again amazed at how God takes seemingly ordinary things – a meal, a game, face painting- and transforms them into a holy encounter. Events like the one yesterday serve as a delivery system for God’s love, grace, compassion and welcome. Were the baby chicks really cute? Yes. Was the food great? Yes. Were the activities fun? Yes. Were the decorations festive? Yes. But each of those things was also so much more- they were an opportunity to invite people to be part of the beloved community, the kingdom community, we were designed for, and that we long for (whether we are consciously aware of it or not).
Thanks to the teams of amazing volunteers, including many from Garfield’s Youth Group, along with so many of you who came to help provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere embodied Garfield’s vision to connect diverse people who share a common brokenness, with Jesus, and to Flora Mark, Director of Community Outflow & Outreach. .
Earlier in the day, Garfield's KidzSpace children led a palm parade at our 9:00 AM Heritage Service (Pepper Pike) in celebration of Palm Sunday as the Chancel Choir led us in singing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna.” I was reminded of Palm Sunday services from my childhood; when I was little, my mom took my brother Mike & I to the small Lutheran church down the street from us in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. On Palm Sunday we didn’t have a parade but everyone got a palm frond and we heard about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the donkey and people waving palm branches and saying “Hosanna!”
Then, the next Sunday, we went to the outdoor Easter Sunrise Service. My brother and I dressed up in new Easter outfits, which for me included a crinkly, lacey- and often itchy - Easter dress, with an Easter Coat, Easter Hat, and white gloves. The pastor’s son would play the trumpet and we would sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and hear the Easter Story. Then we’d go home & see what the Easter Bunny had brought us and try to cajole my mom & dad into letting us have a Peep or a few jelly beans or maybe the ear of a chocolate bunny before breakfast.
Only later did I come to understand how much more joyous Easter is when, instead of going straight from Palm Sunday to Easter (as we did in my childhood) we pause to experience the fullness of Holy Week, including worship on Maundy Thursday, when we remember the Last Supper and Jesus washing the disciples' feet, and Good Friday, when we remember Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion & death.
On Maundy Thursday, April 14, at 7:00 PM, we’ll gather at tables in the Family Life Center (Pepper Pike) for worship, conversation and communion. Together we will imagine what it was like to be at that table with Jesus and how we follow or depart from the thoughts, attitudes and actions of his disciples. (Nursery care provided.)
On Good Friday, April 15, at 7:00 PM, we will again gather at tables in the Family Life Center (Pepper Pike) for worship and conversation as we imaginatively explore what it was like to gather at the table the night after Jesus died. (Nursery care provided.)
Then, having experienced the full range of emotions and experiences of Holy Week, come back for our in-person & online Easter Services to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ from the dead!
*NOTE: While we aren’t livestreaming Holy Week services because of the interactive format, online Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services will be available on demand. For links to online platforms, use this link: https://garfieldchurch.org/current-worship
March 21, 2022
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. …. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13, 16-17)
When I was making my way back to God in my late 20’s (after walking away from God and the church of my childhood after my mom died when I was 11) my husband Joe and I were part of Lakewood United Methodist Church. While we were part of that congregation, I went from tentatively exploring Christianity to falling in love with God and -eventually- the call to ordained ministry that led me to seminar and then to serve on the pastoral team here at Garfield for the past 19 years.
Our three sons were all baptized as infants while we were at Lakewood UMC. As part of the baptism service, the pastor would turn to the congregation and sprinkle some of the water from the baptismal font on those sitting nearby and proclaim “Remember your baptism, and be thankful!”
I remember being mystified when I heard the pastor say that; having been baptized as an infant, it was hard for me to understand how I could possibly “remember” something that I had no conscious memory of. Over time I came to understand “Remember your baptism and be thankful” more as an invitation to reflect on and celebrate that I had been baptized. Still, as I grew in faith and accepted Christ, I longed for a more tangible way to affirm my new commitment.Fast forward to 2017 when I was blessed to be part of that year’s trip to the Holy Land with Pastor Chip & Terri Freed and 14 others from Garfield. On February 10th we spent much of the day at Jordan River. It was an amazing feeling to be standing in the river where Jesus had been baptized and to have the privilege, together with Pastor Chip, to baptize/reaffirm the baptisms of so many of our group.
On that day I also reaffirmed my own baptism and my commitment to Christ. I will never forget the moment when Pastor Chip turned to me and asked me if I accepted the new life Christ gives and I said yes and entered the water. Rising up, I experienced a deep renewal and sensed God’s love in a powerful way.
Maybe you are in a place where you are ready to enter the waters of baptism for the first time, or to reaffirm your baptism in our baptismal pool (or by sprinkling, if you prefer). Maybe, after all that we’ve been through in the past few years, you are sensing that it’s time to “come to the waters.” (Isaiah 55:1)
On April 24th- the Sunday after Easter – we will again celebrate Baptism Sunday at Garfield Memorial Church (Pepper Pike). Baptism Sundays are the heartbeat of Garfield Memorial Church so whether or not you are considering baptism or reaffirmation, it’s a Sunday you won’t want to miss! Learn more here.
February 14, 2022
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
A few Sundays ago when I was driving to our Pepper Pike campus, the early morning sun glare was so intense I had to pull down my visor and adjust my gaze in order to see the road in front of me. At one point I couldn’t even look in my rearview mirror without being blinded by the brightness of the sunlight. The lack of visibility was similar in some ways to driving in a snowstorm.
I thought about Moses talking with God in the tent of meeting outside the camp of the Israelites near Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 33 Moses says to God “Show me your glory, I pray.” (Ex. 33:18); the Lord says “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live,” (Ex. 20) but then God has him come alone to the top of the mountain the next morning with two stone tablets (Ex. 34:1-4). God tells Moses that he’ll put him in a cleft of a rock while he passes by so that Moses will not see his face- and so remain safe (Ex. 33:22-23). After Moses comes down from the mountain and his encounter with God he did not know that his face shone because he had been talking with God (Ex. 34:29).
The God who comes to us at Christmas as a vulnerable infant is also the God whose countenance is so glorious we can’t safely look at it directly. I have long loved the scene in C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where Susan learns that Aslan is a lion, not a man: “’Ooh’ said Susan. ‘I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion’...’Safe?’ said Mr Beaver ...’Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.’”
On that Sunday, I began to feel God’s glorious light penetrate and dispel some of the weariness that has accumulated with all that has happened the last few years – the pandemic, racial unrest, unrelenting division, the loss and grief so many have experienced- and grateful for the reminder that God is not “safe”…but he’s incredibly good.
October 11, 2021
Ever heard of “The Marshmallow Test”?
In 1972, Stanford University's Walter Mischel wanted to study self control and delayed gratification in kids so he sat 600 children down at a table one at a time, placed a single marshmallow in front of them, and gave them a choice: they could eat one marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows.
The children were filmed as they waited. Some kids picked up the marshmallow and sniffed and/or squeezed it. Some licked it and some pinched off teeny tiny bits to sneak a taste, hoping it would go unnoticed. Some looked away from the treat, or tapped the table, or covered their faces in an effort to keep themselves from succumbing to temptation. Others just stuffed the marshmallow in their mouths without waiting for the researcher to return.
In January 2020, a new version of this experiment was reported. In this version, the children were paired up, played a game together, and then were sent to a room with their partner. They were given a cookie with the promise of a second one if they could wait 15 minutes without eating the first cookie.
Some of the kids were told they could only get the second cookie if both they and their partner could wait without eating the first cookie. The researchers found that this second group succeeded in waiting significantly more often.
The author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament understood this:
…. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another... (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Even though Pastor Chip (in Pepper Pike) and Pastor Steve (in South Euclid) wrapped up our Teaching Series, “Better Together,” yesterday, the need for us to take up the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and to continue to meet together in a variety of ways continues. (This coming Sunday we’ll start a new series, “There’s No Place Like Home.”)
The truth is, Garfield has never stopped “meeting together” during the pandemic; even when we suspended in-person worship, we were able to connect online for worship and other gatherings, and continue to do so!
We recently expanded our in-person options by adding a 10:00 AM Mosaic worship service at our South Euclid Campus, and as Pastor Scott said in the video shown at our Mosaic services yesterday, KidzClub is restarting as of Oct. 27 (more below in Happenings & at www.garfieldchurch.org/kidzclub). You can also check out Fall / Winter small group options here.
Truly, we are “better together” – we are better when we partner with God, and with one another. Let’s live it out….together.
august 30, 2021
When Joe and I were first married, I decided that I was going to make every bread product we consumed from scratch (note: this was before having kids). I had done some breadmaking in the past but branched out into bagels, pita bread, naan, rolls of various kinds, and coffee cakes, as well as all different types of loaves from whole wheat to multigrain to French & Italian bread.
There was something about mixing and kneading the dough, letting it rise, shaping it and baking it, that was restorative to me. I learned how important it was to proof the yeast in water that was just the right temperature. I loved taking simple ingredients that were not good to eat on their own (have you ever tasted raw flour or dry yeast? Not recommended!) and combining them into something, that when finished, was delicious.
Yeast is essential for any leavened bread product despite the fact that, proportionately, it is one of the smallest ingredients in terms of quantity. It is also the only ingredient that is alive. These single-celled organisms are members of the fungus kingdom. Their favorite food is sugar; that’s why sugar in some form is part of bread recipes.
Jesus told a parable about yeast (Luke 13:20-21; you can also find it in Matthew 13:33) to help describe the kingdom of God:
[Jesus] …. asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Luke 13:20)
This was a shocking comparison for Jesus to make in that culture because yeast/ leaven were viewed almost exclusively as a negative metaphor, probably because fermentation implied corruption & disintegration (e.g. Exodus 12:8, 15-20). But Jesus uses yeast to symbolize the positive, hidden permeation of the kingdom of heaven in this broken world.
The Jews believed that the arrival of the kingdom of heaven would be sudden and transformative but Jesus is saying it will not come all at once but will grow gradually into greatness. What starts out as an insignificant movement will ultimately cover the whole earth.
Garfield’s Ten Year Vision – “A Renaissance of Reconciliation” – says, in part,
“…A renaissance is a renewal of life and vigor. We want to be the yeast in our communities, the single-cell that exponentially grows to bring new life, leading to lasting peace. …” (For the whole document click here)
We’ve been talking about the upcoming “R & R” (Renaissance of Reconcilation) Festival which will take place outdoors at our South Euclid Campus on September 11 from 11AM-8PM with live music, food, fun for the whole family, and opportunities to connect with and talk to others in our community. The next day, at 10AM (also outdoors) we will relaunch in-person worship at our South Euclid Campus (services in Pepper Pike will take place at their usual times & locations). Click here for more.
It’s easy to feel that we as individuals can’t really make a difference, that the divisions and issues and crises of this world are beyond our influence, but Jesus says something different. If a small amount of yeast can leaven 60 pounds of flour, you and I can help permeate our community with love, grace, and peace. Volunteers are needed to help make those who come to the festival feel welcome, to help with parking, serving food, and tear down among other things. You can sign up to volunteer here, or just come and mingle and meet people.
These happenings are just the beginning of the Renaissance of Reconciliation, and we can’t wait to see what God will continue to do in and through his people and his (not our!) Church.
Click here to help with the Renaissance of Reconciliation Festival!
may 3, 2021
I’d never heard of a “traffic calming zone” until I came across this one earlier this spring on one of my walks in Lakewood (where I live) with Leah (our 3 year old GSD). They’re intended to slow traffic down on residential streets by adding things like speed humps or tables or emergency-friendly speed cushions to help reduce speeds and hence accidents.
It led me to think that I could use some traffic calming zones in my life.
We live in a world that militates against our being present in the moments of our life; we’re bombarded 24/7 by distractions by media (social and otherwise) and most everyone I know experiences information overload. Economist and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon’s observation, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” really resonates with me. I’ve become more and more aware of my own distractedness and scattered attention.
But God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Jesus often left the crowds and his disciples to spend time in prayer and solitude: Mark’s gospel tells us that “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).
Prayer and solitude are two practices that can operate as “traffic calming zones" for me. These practices help me to be more present in the moment - to "be here now" - rather than follow my default of always hurrying on to the next thing. I was fascinated to hear author Greg McKeown talk about recent research by neuroscientists and psychologists into what makes now “now.” Researchers say that "now" is between two to three seconds. McKeown says, “the word now comes from Novus homo, which means a new man or woman, or a man or woman newly ennobled. And so if you connect all these themes together, it makes for such a profound thing that in this moment… in that two to three seconds, we have a choice. Profound things can happen in two, three seconds. … You can say, “Thank you,” for something. You can say, “I’m sorry.” You can say, “I forgive you.” You can say, “Let’s start over.” You can say, “Let’s move on.”
Or you can just pause for three seconds to be still and know that God is God.
april 19, 2021
I remember looking down at the dirt of the kickball field as teams were being picked. I was about 8 years old. One by one, other kids walked over to one team or the other as their names were called. When one of the team leaders finally said my name I was the only one left and one of the team leaders had no choice but to take me. I felt like I just didn’t measure up.
It’s pretty easy for most of us to see all kinds of ways we don’t measure up. In fact, our consumeristic culture depends on our feelings of inadequacy to fuel our incessant purchases that we hope will finally makes us feel OK about ourselves and our lives.
But that’s not what our current teaching series, “Weighed in the Balances” with the tagline “…and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27) is about.
As Pastor Steve Furr shared at the beginning of his sermon, “Weighed in the Balances: The Compassion Connection” (you can find the video & podcast versions on our Messages page here), the tagline is a verse that comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel. A mysterious hand appeared on the wall and wrote three messages to the King of Babylon that he needed Daniel to interpret. One of those messages was "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting."
As part of our Vision process (learn more about the Vision here), we have four parts in living out our vision: our mission, "Widen the Circle - Connecting diverse people who share a common brokenness, with Jesus;" our values of Safety, Authenticity, Diversity, Transformation and Reconciliation; our strategy for living that out in the church; and then our "Measures" - how are we doing in living out our mission individually and collectively? Weighing ourselves, if you will. So, this is NOT about "do I / we measure up!" Jesus took care of that one on the cross. It's about how are we doing in growing more and more in Christ's likeness- in being transformed to be more like Jesus.
Pastor Steve launched the series by talking about “The Compassion Connection” and how in Colossians 3:12 the apostle Paul says to “put on…compassionate hearts…” Pastor Steve went on to say, “Jesus was moved by compassion and he fed hungry people, he was moved by compassion and healed people. Compassion is the reason for the gospel: ‘For God so loved the world he gave his son’…we are called to put on compassion.” When we do so, we are being transformed to be more like Jesus. The great spiritual writer, Dallas Williard, said it this way: “Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if He were you.” As we’re transformed to be more and more like Jesus we’re also becoming more and more our intended, authentic selves.
In the coming weeks we’ll spend some time digging deeper into each of the four Measures in our Vision Frame as a way of seeing how we are doing in being transformed to become more like Jesus.
Please take some time each day to reflect on these questions and ask yourself how you are living them out. Which ones challenge you? Excite you?
LOVE: How am I loving my neighbor the way God loves them?
HUMILITY: How am I putting the needs of others above my own?
SHARING: How am I sharing the good news of God’s love for all people?
CONNECT: Do I have meaningful connections with diverse people?
Remember, this is not about measuring up. It’s about growing – together – with the help of the Holy Spirit. Transformation rarely happens in an instant, but it does happen cumulatively, instant by instant.
I’m always challenged by this quote from the writer G. K. Chesterton: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
I loved when Pastor Steve talked about how when he was a kid his mom would tell him and his siblings to take a bath on Saturday night and then she would lay out their Sunday clothes to put on in the morning for church.
He said he didn’t have to make the clothes, or buy the clothes, or even (at that point) iron the clothes- he just had to put them on!
God has equipped us, he has given us everything we need- we just need to put it on, and keep putting it on- together.
march 8, 2021
When I was little we learned a little rhyme that went “here’s the church, here’s the steeple. Open the doors, here’s the people.” You interlace your hands so that your fingers are inside except the forefingers which form the steeple, and the thumbs that form the doors. When you open your hands you wiggle your fingers as you say "here's the people."
I also learned a second part of the rhyme where you interlace your fingers in the opposite direction, saying, “here’s the church, here’s the steeple. Open the doors- where’s the people?” In the second version when you open your hands, they are empty.
Over the last 6 decades there’s been a steady decline in church attendance & engagement in the US (following in the footsteps of Europe), leading to the emptying- and eventual closure- of many churches. Pastor Chip shared some insights on some of the factor in his March 7 message, "A Renaissance of Reconciliation: Love for the City." (Listen here.)
And then…the pandemic, which has accelerated the process of decline and closure for many churches.
When in-person worship was suspended a year ago at Garfield Memorial, the church not only continued to open its doors (virutally), but we were able to reach new people and more people. As we’ve shared multiple times, we were blessed to already have an online campus pastor, Curt Bissell, and a strong online presence, before the pandemic. We've heard from some of you that you have connected with Garfield online but have not yet worshiped at our facilities in person. While we have been re-introducing in-person worship opportunities (click here for more), our online presence continues to be a vital point of connection. It's not going away.
As Pastor Chip and others have shared, the pandemic reminded us that the church is not a building. The church is not a place we “go.” The church is not a delivery system for religious goods and services. The church is not a place where people go to have the pastors and worship leaders do “spiritual” things for them.
The church is the bride of Christ. As Pastor Chip said in his message March 7 (listen to it here), the church is Jesus’ masterpiece that has been painted over by mediocre and bad artists for centuries, and we need to peel back the layers of paint to get back to the work of the Master. Pastor Chip said that the church in Antioch was the first place where the term “Christians” was used because there was no other word to describe these people who never got together anywhere else and who were breaking down barriers and were walking, working and worshiping together as one.
In our current teaching series, “A Renaissance of Reconciliation,” we have been sharing the 10 year vision for Garfield Memorial Church and other fruit of the work of the 2020 Vision Team. (Learn more here.) Part of that vision (as shared at the end of Pastor Chip’s sermon March 7) is:
In the next 10 years, as part of this world’s broken community, we will seek to become transformed by Jesus as we pursue a renaissance of reconciliation for all people while living into the beloved community… We dream of a decade where the people of Garfield Memorial sow the gospel in Greater Cleveland by saturating it with the gospel’s love and power so that discord is replaced with unity.
We want to be the yeast in our communities, the single-cell that exponentially grows to bring new life, leading to lasting peace… May our cry for a church from “every nation, tribe, people and language” saturate our city… to create a hunger for transformation from division to unity.
This is such a big vision that there is no way that it can come to life without dependence on God. I have started to include this as part of my daily prayer practice and invite you to do the same. I also invite you to join me in a new session of Connect, the “On Ramp” that can lead to church membership. We’ll explore the vision, values, measures and strategy that have emerged through the work of the 2020 Vision Team, talk about what it means to be part of the church, how we grow spiritually, serve, give, and more.
You can sign up here. We’ll meet via Zoom starting March 22, 6:30-7:30 PM for 4 weeks.
Of course, you don’t have to join Garfield to be part of this community that seeks to connect diverse people who share a common brokenness, with Jesus. Membership doesn’t confer special privileges. In fact, when you become a member you are becoming part of the workforce (rather than a “customer”).
But then, Jesus said, “I came not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)
january 11, 2021
Words matter. Pastor Scott was acknowledging that near the beginning of his powerful & prophetic message on January 10th when he said, “I feel the burden of being careful with my words. Not in the sense of timid, but in the sense of precise.” (To listen or re-listen to Pastor Scott’s sermon, “What Does Jesus Say About This?” click here. To see the full Mosaic service, click here, and the full Heritage service, here.)
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a theologian, author, teacher, and active participant in the civil rights movement. (You may recall that Pastor Chip quoted Heschel, who marched from Selma to Montgomery Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Response to the Events of January 6 email we sent out and posted last week- here’s a link).
In the introduction to a collection of her father’s essays, Heschel’s daughter Susannah wrote:
“Words … are God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world. He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds, he used to tell me when I was a child. They must be used very carefully. Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn. The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 1997, viii-ix)
This coming Sunday, January 17th, we will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday with Pastor Steve Furr preaching for our 9:00 Heritage service and Bishop Tracy Smith Malone preaching at our Mosaic services. (Here’s a link to all our services.)
It would be impossible to count the words in Dr. King’s deep archive of sermons, writings and speeches, and even harder to measure the influence of his spoken and written words. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963) is one of the most famous speeches in the history of the United States, and perhaps the world. More than 50 years later, the four words “I have a dream” have become a kind of shorthand for Dr. King’s commitment to social justice, freedom & nonviolence.
Dr. King’s words help create a better world for all of us as he dreamed of a time when “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” where his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” and worked to help bring that vision into reality. Dr. King’s influence on the civil rights movement and our culture are immeasurable. When Dr. King said “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land” on April 3, 1968, he didn’t know his life would end in a violent assassination the next day, but his words call us to continue his work for social justice, for the world he envisioned for all of us.
What worlds are your words, my words, our words creating? You may say, “I’m not Dr. King!” – and you are right. Neither am I. But the words we say and the words we hear shape our lives and the lives of those around us. That truth is at the core of Kathleen Edelman’s teaching in I Said This, You Heard That, based on Ephesians 4:29 where the apostle Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Kathleen was with us at Garfield in the fall of 2019 to share about temperaments and how they influence the words we speak and the words we need to hear, the words we are most likely to use as weapons and how those words will wound others. (If you have heard Pastor Chip talking about being "yellow," or me being "blue" that's what we're referring to.) I am excited that we will be starting a new session of the six-week “I Said This, You Heard That” study on January 25th at 6:30 PM. This small group experience will help you learn how your wiring colors your communication and help you learn how to use your words to build up others, and in the process, to love one another better. To learn more or sign up click here.
Words create worlds. May our words create a better world and help fulfill the dream of Dr. King.
december 28, 2020
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Christmas was different for most of us this year in multiple ways. For some of us it was a day tinged with grief, loss, loneliness. Many of us were challenged to find new virtual ways to connect with friends and family. This year I am expecially thankful that no matter what our circumstances . . . Christmas comes.
The Christmas clearance sales are well underway. Stores are already ramping up for Valentine’s Day (and even Easter). To the world, once December 25th has come and gone, Christmas is over. But I am not ready to leave the manger just yet. I am not ready to rush from the wonder of this newborn king. Lent will come soon enough. The crucifixion will come soon enough. But today, we have all the wonder and possibility that the birth of this child, God with us, brings.
Now that the preparations are over, now that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are in the rear view mirror, I want to simply marinate in the sheer wonder of it all. (To experience or reexperience our Heritage and/or Mosaic Christmas Eve worship services, click here.)
When I was a child, I loved to sit by myself near our Christmas tree with the only light in the room coming from the strings of lights. I was drawn to those lights like moths to a flame, and while I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I think I was drawn to the sheer wonder and holiness of Christmas.
I hope you’ll join me in pausing to savor the wonder of Christmas a little longer. Here are some “lights” in the form of words from the 17th century poet Richard Crashaw and contemporary poets Luci Shaw and Joan Rae Mills that are helping me stay near the manger right now:
“Welcome, all wonders in one sight! Eternity shut in a span! Summer in winter, day in night! Heaven in earth, and God in man! Great little One! whose all-embracing birth Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.— Richard Crashaw
“Because eternity was closeted in time he is my open door to forever. From his imprisonment my freedoms grow, find wings. Part of his body, I transcend this flesh. From his sweet silence my mouth sings. Out of his dark I glow. My life, as his, slips through death’s mesh, time’s bars, joins hands with heaven, speaks with stars.” – Luci Shaw
“His hand that hurled the world holds tight his mother’s finger. Holy light spills across her face and she weeps silent wondering tears to know she holds the One who has so long held her.” Joan Rae Mills
November 30, 2020
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
This verse hit me hard when I heard it two decades ago at a Chapel service at Ashland Theological Seminary…and it continues to hit me hard today. Maybe even harder.
I had questioned and struggled with my call to ministry for several years before seminary (that’s another story) but had finally said “yes” to God and had begun the process towards ordination. Once I had made that commitment I began to do all that I could to prepare spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally for ministry. But, for some reason, during that particular chapel service, I heard that verse as if for the first time (funny how the Holy Spirit can make a verse you’ve heard multiple times stand out in bas relief).
I realized that saying “yes” to serving God and God’s people was just the beginning. I still had to “take hold of” that for which Jesus had (to my utter and continuing surprise) taken hold of me. It suddenly became clear to me that yes, God has a calling and a purpose for me (and for each of us) but we have an active part in living that out. Life with Jesus is not passive nor is it static. It doesn’t end with our “yes” to Jesus- it begins!
That’s true for us as individuals – and it’s also true for us as the Church. Our Vision 2020 process that Pastor Chip and others have been sharing about is one way we are seeking to “take hold” of God’s collective call.
I am grateful for our CHURCH@HOME teaching series and the call to reclaim our identity as the body of Christ. I am grateful for the reminder that the church isn’t a building or buildings, or limited to an hour or so a week. Just as the early church was scattered, so are we. Just as the early church did “church at home,” so are we.
I think that God is inviting us as his (not our) church, as the body and bride of Christ, to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of us – to be the Church wherever we are, making disciples and “Connecting diverse people who share a common brokenness, with Jesus” (our vision statement at Garfield Memorial).
We are trying to provide some simple, practical ways for all of us to take hold of that for which Jesus took hold of us, individually and collectively, as we experience CHURCH@HOME...for the Holidays. This week we invited you to order some luminaries (use this link) or find another way to light up your community this season, and to subscribe to an Advent (season leading up to Christmas) devotional from our House of Prayer. You can sign up to receive daily devotionals by email here.
Below is the devotional for November 30th to get you started. If you want to get the rest of the devotionals you can subscribe here.
Today's Advent Devotional From House of Prayer
Thanks for signing up for the Advent Devotional as part of CHURCH@HOME! To stay up to date on CHURCH@HOME use this link. For more about House of Prayer, use this link.https://garfieldchurch.org/house-of-prayer
Advent Devotional for November 30, 2020 - Hope!As we welcome the season of Advent, let us raise the hope in the baby who has come to redeem mankind. The HOPE that we have as believers is different from the world's view of hope. Hope is not just thinking positive about something. Hope is the foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that our Christian hope is a confident expectation of good. Therefore, we confess and expect our hope to bring forth good. Hope will never put us to shame or disappoint us because God has given us the Holy Spirit which fills our hearts with His love (Romans 5:5).
As believers, God wants us to raise our hope by our faith. We can hope for a better life, hope for a bright future, hope for a happy family and so on. If you are sick, you can hope to get well. For it is by His stripes that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). If you are in lack, you can hope in the Lord's provision (Philippians 4:19). If you are advanced in years, you can hope that you will bring forth fruit in old age (Psalm 92:14). Without Christ, hope has no power. We are reminded in Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the substance of things hoped for. If there is no hope – faith has no substance.
Speaking our words of hope into the atmosphere is the substance for faith to work. Our words of hope are heard by Jesus, our high priest, who sits at the Father's right hand making intercessions for us daily. Words have power. Angels respond to the voice of God's word (Psalm 103:19). We can never be ashamed or afraid to speak out our hope. Our hearts are filled with hope as the Holy Spirit fills our heart with God's love.
During this season of Advent let the words of Romans 15:13 resonate in your heart, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Song Reflection of Hope – On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus name
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand.
May the hope of a joyous Advent season be yours in Christ Jesus!
In faith and love,
november 16, 2020
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1)
Research reveals that practicing gratitude is associated with greater happiness and can improve your mental and physical health. (Here’s an article from Harvard Medical School if you want to learn more about some of the research.) The article says that when we practice gratitude we are refocusing on what we have instead of what we don’t.
You may wonder, how can we give thanks in the midst of a pandemic? How can we give thanks when our country and world remain divided in so many ways? The apostle Paul admonishes us (against all human logic) to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) How on earth can we do that?
We can begin. Right now. We can remember that our ability to give thanks doesn’t really depend on how many blessings we “count.” We can always give thanks because we always have the ultimate blessing: a relationship with a “good, good, Father” (as one of our worship songs declares). We give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his faithful love endures forever.
What are you thankful to God for, in this moment? We’ve been asking you to share your response to that question, through our website (you can use this link), by sending a note or picture or drawing to the church office at 3650 Lander Rd., Pepper Pike 44124, or emailing email@example.com. Your responses will be put on a special prayer wall and on November 22nd we’ll share pictures and video of what you send and celebrate together what we are thankful to God for as we head into Thanksgiving week. (You can also post on social media using #Thankful4Garfield.)
On November 22, Pastor Chip will kick off our new teaching series, “CHURCH@HOME...for the Holidays,” with a message entitled “A Manual for CHURCH@HOME” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28). You’ll be able to download your own “Manual for CHURCH@HOME” from our website that day and we hope you’ll make these your guidelines for doing faith at home throughout the series & beyond. Starting November 22nd there will be a CHURCH@HOME banner at the top of our website where you can find all the latest updates and links for all things CHURCH@HOME.
CHURCH@HOME will continue to be our focus all the way through Advent & Christmas and into the first Sunday of January. We want to be alongside you as you worship at home, as you grow as a follower of Jesus, as you help your kids grow in faith, as you live as a disciple of Jesus wherever you are. Remember Home Depot’s slogan? “You can do it…we can help”? You can do CHURCH@HOME, you can continue to grow in faith- we can help!
We are also going to have some fun, interactive activities throughout the series that we hope will bring you a little joy this season. (I think we all need a little joy right about now!) Each week we’ll have a “CHURCH@HOMEWORK” downloadable resource that goes along with the week’s theme. Our KidzSpace children’s ministry will also be helping to resource families for CHURCH@HOME. (If you are not currently receiving updates from our Children & Family Pastor, David Thorne, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
As part of CHURCH@HOME we are launching a few new 4-week online small groups based on the resource One Word that Will Change Your Life and a new session of our popular On Ramp, Discovery: Ministry by Strengths . You can learn more about / sign up for these groups as well as the Biblical Strength Training (Bible + Exercise) group HERE.
One of the “I’m thankful to God for…” cards we received this past week was from Flora Mark, a leader in House of Prayer and in our church. I think what she says embodies what we are talking about in CHURCH@HOME:
“I’m thankful to God for…My new spiritual disciplines (reading aloud Scripture, posting devotionals, journaling prayers, worshipping with my sons) that have become routine now. Before the pandemic, my walk with God was inconsistent- active on Sundays but mostly dormant the rest of the week. I'm thankful for Garfield Church in supporting my spiritual growth now & then.“
Don’t forget to let us know what you’re thankful to God for and then live into CHURCH@HOME...For the Holidays (and beyond). Remember, you can do it- we (and God!) can help.
november 2, 2020
Last night the wind was strong enough to move our recycling bin across the driveway. It was strong enough to knock out power throughout my neighborhood in Lakewood for a few hours.
But it wasn’t strong enough to uproot the yard sign that’s been in our front yard since the end of April when a team of staff & volunteers placed 450 “Praying for Our City” yard signs in the yards of many of you who worship & serve Jesus through Garfield Memorial Church. The trees were beginning to bloom when we put the sign in – now those leaves are brightly colored, and on the ground. (You can see a short video about the “Praying for Our City” yard signs here https://vimeo.com/423760592)
Every time I leave to go on a walk with Leah (our 2 year old GSD), every time I come back home, every time I back out of or pull into our driveway, I am reminded to pray.
I’m grateful to have this tangible prompt- this literal sign- that continually calls me back to God in prayer. I try to carry that posture of prayer with me when I am walking, or doing errands, or wherever I am, and to pray for everyone I encounter, for the people in the houses and businesses we pass by.
As Pastor Chip said so powerfully in his Oct. 25 message in the “Reconciled” teaching series, the love of Christ compels me to see others with “soft”- not “hard”- eyes and I try to practice that praying to see people as God sees them, to somehow be a conduit of God’s love for all people – not by my power (which is inadequate) but by God’s power. (If you missed this message, or want to see it again, use this link https://vimeo.com/471966804)
If you got a yard sign back in April, I hope it’s still standing, but whether it is or not, and whether or not you had one to begin with, “Let us not become weary in doing good,” let us not grow weary of lifting up our local and global neighbors and communities in prayer, “ for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
PS Join our House of Prayer every Monday via Conference call (339-209-5473) to experience prayer with others. You can learn more about House of Prayer here https://garfieldchurch.org/house-of-prayer
august 24, 2020
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:2)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
We knew it was getting bad, but we didn’t realize how bad.
My husband Joe and I have lived in our home in Lakewood for more than 3 decades (yikes!). Like many homes in our area, our house was built nearly a century ago and still has the original plaster walls. Well, plaster tends to settle over the years and we noticed a few cracks in the ceiling and at least one wall in our bedroom, so we asked our friend Linda, who specializes in plaster restoration, to begin work on fixing the ceiling & the wall we thought was bad (she had done our living room ceiling a few years back).
It soon became clear that all 4 walls had significant cracks … so we moved across the hall into our spare bedroom and she began the weeks-long process of first removing the broken plaster and then slowly, painstakingly, restoring the walls. (Below are a few pictures showing the process.)
Seeing the process over these weeks has made me think about how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that there were more cracks in the Church and in our culture than we realized. We knew there were some cracks in the church in the United States, with declining numbers in worship attendance and overall engagement year over year in most churches…but the pandemic has revealed there are even more cracks and brokenness underneath the surface than many of us knew.
The whole world has been moving online but the church had lagged behind…and suddenly many churches were streaming worship services for the very first time. (Garfield has been blessed to have had our Online Campus Pastor, Curt Bissell, leading our online presence for the past few years so we didn’t have to scramble in the same way as many churches though we continue to try to be Spirit-led and nimble in finding ways to engage with all of you online).
We knew there have long been cracks in our country because of the ongoing effects of the long history of racism in our country….but the pandemic has revealed that there are even more cracks and brokenness and sin underneath the surface than many of us knew.
And so continues the long but holy work of removing the broken pieces and the process of restoration. I think there is a gift in this, that God is giving us an opportunity as God’s church and God’s people to engage in the work of transformation, personally and corporately, and to live out Jesus prayer that we would “be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21 )
Linda finished our bedroom…but there are a few more rooms that have some significant cracks that need repair. It’s a slow process, and I suspect that as with our bedroom we’ll see that the damage in the other rooms is worse than we thought, but I’m grateful that the work is started.
As challenging as it can be to face the cracks and brokenness that are being revealed, let’s seize the opportunities that God is giving us to be agents of restoration and transformation, individually and together.
PS: We are two weeks into our "The Gospel in Film" Teaching Series. Eight people out of hundreds of you guessed Pastor Scott’s favorite movie two weeks ago and 14 of you- Shasta Custard, Carolann Fisco, Wesley Gary, Tiffany Green, Evelyn Kaufmann, Gregory Jones, Audra Porter, Kristi Scott, Cheri Shumaker, Barbara K Smith, Larry Stahl, Linda Wheatt, Jordyn Wynne, and Malakai Wynne guessed Pastor Chip's. Keep voting as there are prizes at multiple levels! My top five movies of all time can be found here. I’m preaching on my overall number one this Sunday. Be sure to vote!
Because we are sharing movie clips, please use our online church platform or the Boxcast app to view services for the next two weeks. garfieldchurchonline.com
July 6, 2020
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. (Matthew 6:25-29)
These words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount came to me when I was out walking Leah (our 2 year old GSD) the other day and saw these flowers. Yet, how can we not worry in these challenging, often painful times?
A recent survey by the Census Bureau revealed that a third of Americans reported experiencing depression and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, the numbers were nearly double those uncovered in 2014. Younger adults reported even higher levels of pandemic-related depression & anxiety.
So if you are having trouble following Jesus’ words about worry, you are not alone!
That is why on the July 17 5:00 PM edition of Faith on Fridays on Facebook Live, we’ll be talking with two Licensed Clinical Psychologists, Dr. Kelly Bhatnagar and Dr. Rob Adams, who are part of Garfield Memorial Church, about mental health & the pandemic. We hope you’ll join the live chat with your comments and questions. (You can also watch on demand afterwards on Facebook or on YouTube.com/garfieldmemorialchurch. (On the July 10 5:00 PM Edition Faith on Fridays we’ll be talking with Bishop Tracy S. Malone about Leading the 21st Century Church in the midst of everything going on in our country & world. You won’t want to miss it!)
PS: Here is a tool I’ve been using lately as a way to pause, refocus and “consider the lilies” and invite God into what I am experiencing. It’s a slightly modified version of “SNAP” (explanation below) based on the work of Ian Cron, an Episcopal priest and a trained psychotherapist who writes and speaks about the Enneagram. SNAP is one strategy for responding to difficult emotions and to worry.
S - Stop and pause
N - Notice how you are feeling- what’s going through your mind, how’s your body feeling (you don’t have to judge or evaluate it- just notice it)
A - Access the scriptures, access the presence of God. Bring those thoughts and feelings to Jesus
P - Pray and Praise. Worry and worship cannot coexist!
The great psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, says "Between the stimulus and the response, there is a space. In that space lies your freedom and your power."
Consider the lilies.
June 15, 2020
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
Three months ago today, on March 15, we moved our church completely online, from worship to small groups to our online options like Monday Musings, Worship Wednesdays, and Faith on Fridays. I remain grateful that, because we had brought Pastor Curt Bissell on board as our online campus pastor and had been streaming our worship services even before that, we were able to pivot quickly. God continues to enable us to reach more people than ever with the great news of the gospel through our online platforms even as we are looking to expand our current offerings with some in-person gatherings at our facilities starting July 12th (see Pastor Chip’s eNote from last week).
This week we are launching a new session of the 9 week group experience, Multiethnic Conversations; a book discussion group on White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo; and two different options for the small group temperament study, “I Said This, You Heard That.”
Yet, it’s undeniable that people are experiencing screen fatigue and a weariness of the pandemic-imposed restrictions on connecting with others in person as we show our love for others by using face coverings and maintaining a safe distance when in public. Parents have become weary of essentially homeschooling (though most school years have now ended.) On a very painful note, I know from so many of my brothers and sisters of color of their extreme weariness in the face of the ongoing, visible sin of racism that continues to be unveiled on a daily basis.
How then can we “not grow weary in doing right”? A few verses before, Paul says that we are to “bear one another’s burdens.” In Paul’s time, carrying burdens we often involuntary, required by soldiers or demanded of slaves, but here it is freely offered. What is a burden you can carry for another, in love? Perhaps listen to the pain of a brother or sister, find a tangible way to work against injustice, help someone in financial need, or .... (you fill in the blank). As Christ’s bride- his church- we must continue to seek to live out Revelation 7:9 where “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” worships God together and be agents of love, grace, justice and reconciliation.
And, in those moments when we still grow unspeakably weary, we need to heed Jesus’ invitation to “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
May 18, 2020
On one of my recent walks with our GSD, Leah, we saw this sign in front of a church building in my neighborhood.
Once again, I was grateful to be part of a church that has never closed during this pandemic; in fact, in addition to offering online worship every Sunday, we have expanded our ministries to help get and stay connected all week long. House of Prayer continues to meet Mondays at 7:00 PM (via conference call- with a special speaker tonight), Monday Musings, Wednesday Worship, and Faith on Fridays. You can learn more at our Digital Faith page on our website https://garfieldchurch.org/digitalfaith , including a special format for the next two 5:00 PM Faith on Fridays with guests Daniel Im (May 22) and Ines Velasquez McBryde (May 29) talking about Growing Discipleship During a Pandemic.
You may remember back in January (which seems like 30 years ago), we began the year saying this year would be a year of vision - Vision 2020. Pastor Chip has been sharing that before we ever knew about the coronavirus, we felt way back in the fall that God was calling us to take another moment to listen and dream about the next 3 / 5 / and 10 years for Garfield Memorial Church. We assembled a Vision 2020 team of 12 members and staff back in February, and while the virus may have delayed our start (we were to begin in April) it did not deny our start, as this past weekend the team gathered for over 6 hours to begin their work with our church consultant as we seek God's vision for God's church here at GMUMC. This is evidence that we are not currently sitting on the sidelines wondering how everything is going to work out. Instead, we are moving forward in faith! Please continue to pray that God's vision might be made more and more clear in 2020.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
I love my husband Joe, and on May 24th we’ll be celebrating 40 years of marriage. That said….being together a little more than we are used to during these weeks has led to a few interesting verbal exchanges. OK, a few quarrels.
If being with people in your household more than usual- or spending time in other ways with people in your family or network has led to some communication challenges, or if you wonder why some of us staying busy with tasks and projects while others are FaceTiming or Zooming with every friend they know, or why some of us feel safest hunkered at home while others are on their fourth neighborhood stroll of the day, or why you have to micromanage one kid’s homeschooling while the other knocks out their work by 10:00 a.m.- then we hope you’ll join us Thursday, May 21 and 28 at 4PM on Facebook Live for a two part special “I Said This, You Heard That” live event with prerecorded video teaching by communication coach and temperament expert Kathleen Edelman and our own panel from Garfield Memorial Church. Our panel will be talking with Pastor Curt Bissell and I live in a Zoom room and sharing how they see their temperaments affecting how they are coping right now.
Whether or not you were part of the hundreds who participated in “I Said This, You Heard That” small groups last fall or not we hope you’ll tune in. As we share about the temperaments I bet you will be able to identify yours as well as the temperaments of those around you. You’ll be able to comment on Facebook Live or YouTube live and we’ll share more information soon about upcoming online versions of the six week “I Said This, You Heard That” study if you want to take a deeper dive.
"I Said This, Your Heard That" Special Live Event hosted by Pastors Terry McHugh & Curt Bissell
Thursday, May 21 & 28, 4:30-6:00 PM
may 4, 2020
You’ve probably seen the yard signs around thanking health care workers and caregivers; every time I pass one I lift up a prayer for all those in the front lines during this pandemic.
I am so grateful for the incredible sacrifices that our health care workers, caregivers, and others are making as we continue to live through this pandemic. We know that many of you are serving on the front lines on a daily basis. THANK YOU. Please know you and our families continue in our prayers.
This morning I saw one in one of my neighbor’s yards that was a little more personal; the words “To My Mom” had been added to one of the signs that says “You Are Our HEROES!” I don’t know the family personally but I doubled up on my prayers for them.
This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day and, just as Easter was different this year, with extended families and friends connecting on Zoom and FaceTime instead of in living and dining rooms, the celebration will be a little bit different for many of us. And, the truth is, Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) can bring up all kinds of feelings, depending on our past and present family situations. For some of you, it may be the first Mother’s Day after your mom has passed on to the Church Triumphant…for others, you may be in the throes of first time motherhood, or expecting a child…for others, you may not have had children…or maybe you never knew your mom. But no matter what our situation Mother’s Day is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the influence of the mothers and other women who have nurtured our faith- our spiritual "heroes"- from aunts or “Church mothers” or friends, or women in the Bible or perhaps even authors who have helped form us.
My mom (who died more than 50 years ago) used to read her Bible every day. She had made a black velvet cover for it and stitched the words “Holy Bible” on it. I rediscovered it in my attic some years back when I was making my way back to faith and just beginning the journey that would lead to full time pastoral ministry. It was a gift to be able to touch the pages she had touched, to read the words from the same Bible she had used.
In some ways we have been scattered, each into our own homes, by the pandemic, but at the same time we, as God’s church and followers of Jesus, have also been gathered together in new and powerful ways as we worship together online, and connect during the week through House of Prayer conference calls, or Monday Musings, or Faith on Fridays. This week’s online gatherings will help us think about and be thankful for the moms and others who helped form our faith. We hope you’ll join us!
Jesus said “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)
The Psalmist said,
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I;
3 for you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
Maybe one of the gifts in our current situation is that we may be more willing to be gathered into the very heart of God and to continue to shelter in God’s presence.
Sheltering with you,
april 7, 2020
Leah (our almost-2 year old German Shepherd) and I take daily walks around our Lakewood neighborhood. Trees that were bare just a week or so ago are starting to show the beginnings of leaves. Purple and white violets are peeking through the grass in some yards, and crocuses and daffodils are in full bloom. I love the yellow bursts of forsythia bushes breaking out in full force.
As I was walking earlier I noticed a tree starting to show bright pink buds and suddenly a poem by Ezra Pound returned to me. (I was an English lit major in college and my memory of the poem goes all the way back to then). The poem is called “In a Station of the Metro” and it consists of only 14 words:
During these weeks of “Sheltering in Presence,” as we have been saying, it’s been life-giving to be able to connect with people virtually in multiple ways from social media, Facetime, our online worship, text and email, and gatherings via the video conferencing platform, Zoom, which we’ve used for some of during the week connecting points such as Faith on Fridays.* To hear the voices and see the faces of others as we navigate these fluid times is good medicine for the soul, and I see the beauty of your faces in a new way.
God has created us for connection! When God created humanity the only thing he said that was not good was for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18). We are designed, in God’s image, to connect with God and with others.
As we experience Holy Week together, and prepare to celebrate Easter in all of our online worship experiences, let’s stay connected as we “shelter in presence.”
You can see the different options on our website and also by watching Pastor Chip’s weekly update.
*Like many other churches, schools, and businesses, Garfield Memorial experienced Zoom "bombings" recently but we have updated our Zoom settings to help prevent this happening again.
march 10, 2020
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
9 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8:1-4, 9)
On Sunday evening, right around sunset, my husband Joe and I (along with our German Shepherd, Leah) went for a walk down at Edgewater Park. It was good medicine for my soul to simply experience the beauty of God’s creation. As I looked at the glorious sky and the expanse of water it illuminated, and the Cleveland skyline, Psalm 8 came to mind.
This Psalm was also one of the Bible passages for the week’s readings on Worship for our Connect group. (“Connect” is the On Ramp that can lead to membership at Garfield Memorial Church, currently meeting on Mondays). The truth is, as worshipful as the moments at Edgewater were on Sunday evening, something different happens when I am in worship with others. The experience of praying together, praising God together, experiencing the word of God read and preached together, sharing the Lord’s Supper together, helps me encounter God in ways that don’t happen in other settings. I can’t explain it apart from the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
This week, and for the rest of Lent, I invite you to grapple with 3 of the questions our Connect group is grappling with:
- What does the word “worship”-which comes from the Old English “worth-ship”, which means to ascribe worth or value to something or someone- mean to you?
- In which part of the worship service do you most connect with God? with others?
- What keeps you from attending worship weekly? What do you need to do to adjust your schedule and priorities to make weekly worship a priority?
This Lent we have been talking about “Four Steps for Forty Days in Lent” which include online community Bible reading, being present in worship for every Sunday during Lent and on Easter, to consider being a host for one of our Maundy Thursday community gatherings, and praying for people we can invite to worship on Easter Sunday, April 12th. (More at https://garfieldchurch.org/lent ). Even if you are not able to be at one of our 4 Sunday morning services at our two campuses, you can still worship with others on our online Campus and interact with our online campus pastor, Curt Bissell, as well as others who are also worshiping online.
february 17, 2020
“Spiritual formation is the process by which the human spirit (will) is given a definite form, or character…It happens to everyone.” (Dallas Willard)
“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” (Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody”)
We as human beings are always being shaped and formed, consciously and unconsciously, whether we are aware of it or not, by the things we do . . . and the things we don’t; by the people we spend time with. . . and those we don’t; by the things we hear and read and say. . . and those we don’t. (You get the idea.)
Volunteering- or, to use more Biblical language, “Serving” (Jesus said, “[I] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give [my] life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)) – is one way we can be formed spiritually as we, like Jesus, put others before ourselves by serving them. (Click this link for more about the Volunteer Celebration Dinner on Feb. 29th for those currently taking a Volunteer “Test Drive” and those currently regularly volunteering at Garfield).
We are also formed as disciples of Jesus as we read, study and are transformed by the Bible, by prayer, by worship, by being in small group or “Table” community with others, and other ways as the Holy Spirit leads.
The upcoming Church “season” of Lent consists of the 40 days (not counting Sundays which are considered “Little Easters”) leading up to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday (April 12th this year). Lent has traditionally been a time for self-examination and repentance, sometimes including the practice of “giving something up”-or taking something on such as a new spiritual discipline or practice.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and as early at the 600’s, the church began the practice of marking worshipers’ foreheads with ashes as a reminder of the Biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and mortality: "You are dust, and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:19). It has often been a time of preparation for Baptism (more on Baptism below).
In 2020, Ash Wednesday falls on February 26th, and our House of Prayer will offer “Drive Thru Ashes” (and anointing with oil) from 7:00-8:00 AM at our Pepper Pike Campus near the church driveway. Then, at 7:00 PM there will be an Ash Wednesday Service in the Pepper Pike Sanctuary (Childcare available through grade 5) with prayer stations by House of Prayer and an opportunity to receive – if desired- ashes and/or anointing with oil. The focus that night will be on Forgiveness- our 5th Core Value- and Pastor Lori Stubbs will conclude our “From Vision to Values” Teaching Series that night with a message on Forgiveness.
On April 19, the Sunday after Easter (in Pepper Pike, and the following Sunday in South Euclid) we will celebrate BAPTISM SUNDAY. It is not too early to be praying about whether God is calling you into the new life of the waters of baptism / reaffirmation of baptism. You can experience baptism/reaffirmation by immersion (going underwater in our baptism pool) or sprinkling. To get a feel for what Baptism Sunday is all about, you can watch a short video, “Why Baptism?” here. (The weekend after Easter we will also again be hosting the Mosaix Regional Learning Lab!)
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18)
How will you be formed – and even transformed- in these weeks leading up to Easter, and beyond?
february 3, 2020
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29)
“We love Scott! We love Scott!”
That was the unexpected greeting Scott Norwood received when he and the rest of the team landed at the Buffalo airport after the 1990 Super Bowl (XXV) between The New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. As Pastor Chip recounted yesterday in his message (“From Vision to Values: Safety”), with just 8 seconds left in the game, Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal . . . and the Bills lost the game. (For a link to the part of the message where Pastor Chip talked about Norwood, click here). Scott later said he didn’t know what to expect from the crowd of 30,000 fans and that he really just wanted to stay behind the scenes, but the fans wouldn’t let him. He said that after hearing the fans chant “We love Scott!” he “had never felt more loved than in that moment.”
This coming Friday, Feb. 7th, Garfield Memorial Church will again host Night to Shine, a prom experience for adults and older youth who learn in special ways. Hundreds of volunteers help make this a night to remember as each of our guests is crowned “Prom King” or “Prom Queen.” There will be dancing, karaoke, food, limo rides, paparazzi, and more. (If you would consider being a companion (“prom date”) for one of our honored guests that night click here.)
It’s an amazing evening from start to finish, but I am always moved by the incredible red-carpet welcome, led by a cheerleading squad, that each guest receives as he or she is escorted down the carpet by their buddy for the evening. The cheers and shouts of welcome have a visible impact on our guests as they experience the love and warmth of the crowd.
What if every guest at Garfield, every day of the year, received a welcome like Scott Norwood, or our honored Night to Shine guests did? If we proclaimed, “We love ….” to everyone we encounter- by not only our words, but our actions, our demeanor, our love for all of God’s beloved children?
We just might find that the world becomes a little brighter, and that every night (and day!) is a “Night to Shine.”
december 23, 2019
How do you respond when someone asks you, “Are you ready for Christmas?”
At this point in the season- the day before Christmas Eve- many are scrambling to finish shopping, preparing for guests (or traveling to BE a guest), baking, cooking, doing laundry, or whatever last minute tasks remain to be done.
The New York Post carried a story last December reporting that, according to recent research, one in three Americans is experiencing- or will experience - “Festive Burnout” before December 25th, and that 68% of Americans consider the “holiday season” (Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Christmas) to be a “stressful” time. The researchers call it “festive stress.”
I saw a graphic illustration of “festive burnout” this morning when I was walking our dog, Leah, and I couldn’t help taking a picture & posting it on Facebook.
So, if you are identifying with Santa and Frosty the Snowman collapsed on the front lawn we passed, you’re not alone!
But no matter where you are on the Festive Stress scale, we hope to see you tomorrow at one of our 5 Christmas Candlelight Celebrations (click here for details) and, we hope you will invite others to join you. (As we’ve said many times, the majority of people who don’t currently attend church say they are likely to accept a personal invitation from a family member, friend, or neighbor to come to a worship service. People are especially receptive at Christmas.)
As the angel said to the shepherds on that first Christmas,
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:10-14)
See you tomorrow when we will experience the joy and peace of Christmas together!
december 2, 2019
Matthew’s gospel tells us that the baby that will be born to Mary & Joseph will be called “Immanuel” (which means “God with us.”)” (Matthew 1:23) John’s gospel says that the Word that was with God from the beginning became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14)
Christmas reminds us that God doesn’t stay far off in the distance, but he comes to be with us. Jesus enters our world of pain, brokenness, sinfulness and death, walking alongside us.
But as Pastor Chip shared yesterday, as we launched our December teaching series, “Where There’s Night, There’s Light (Christmas According to John)”(with Pastor Scott preaching in South Euclid),
God is not only with us; God is for us.
In his message, Pastor Chip shared a story he came across about an unusual password. Two friends were driving around, trying to navigate the busy streets of LA recently. The author of the piece said he asked his friend (who was driving) what his password was so he could access the GPS on his phone. The password? pro nobis. The writer goes on to say,
“I asked him what pro nobis meant and why he chose that for a password. He told me it was Latin and it meant "For Us" and then he suddenly started choking up. I thought, Why would those two Latin words cause so much emotion?
He composed himself and then explained that after walking through deep personal pain, true healing came when he learned that God is "for us"—or the Latin phrase pro nobis. My friend said that after his parents' divorce, a season when he assumed that God didn't care or that God had given up on him, he finally found hope through those two simple words. When he decided to believe that God was pro nobis, that God had even sent Christ to die for him, he could then decide to lay down his life for others.”
The New Testament book of Romans says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
Starting in November we have been talking a lot about giving; as we have shared, 30-40% of the funding for the ministry we share at Garfield Memorial in Pepper Pike, South Euclid & Liberia is received during the month of December. Every gift of any size is needed and helps to move the mission. Our “Did You Know?” videos have helped to tell the stories of how your generosity supports ministry at both our locations to children, youth, our online presence, outreach, evangelism, serving those less fortunate, and more. (Go to www.garfieldchurch.org/did-you-know to see the videos we’ve shown so far, with more to come this month.)
We hope these stories of how God is "widening the circle" through your giving (and, if you’re new here, we really do mean it when we say we don’t expect you to give!) inspire you.
But there’s really only one reason we give: it’s in response to what God has done for us: “God so loved the world that he gave …” (John 3:16) In doing that he proved he is truly for us…which makes me wonder, how am I, how are we, demonstrating that we are for him? For Christ’s church?
We use passwords to unlock our phones, our apps, our online accounts….but only God can unlock our hearts and unleash our generosity.
Pro nobis. Thanks be to God!
October 14, 2019
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
“I’m red (choleric), my wife is green (phlegmatic), and we have a son (7) who is blue (melancholic), and a daughter (4) who is (very) yellow (sanguine). Learning about the temperaments has helped me be more patient with my son’s need for safety and his cautiousness…and more understanding of why my daughter seems to never stop talking.”
“After taking the temperaments assessment for my small group, I had my whole work team take the assessment and already I’m seeing a difference in their interactions and they seem to understand-and appreciate- one another better.”
“I had felt like I never quite fit in but understanding my temperament - and talking with others who share my temperament- helps me realize that I do fit in and that I am not the only one who is like this [my temperament]”
“As a blue, I am grateful for the yellows in my life…or I might never get out of the house!”
“I have always felt very guilty about my needs as a yellow for acceptance, approval, attention & affection and while I still struggle some, I realize this is how God created me- and it’s OK”
These are just a few of the comments we’ve heard these past few weeks from some of the hundreds of people at Garfield who are participating in one of the 6 week small groups based on Kathleen Edelman’s I Said This, You Heard That that started a few weeks ago after Kathleen was with us as our guest speaker on September 15th. Edelman says there are 4 main temperaments for communication, which predispose each of us to speak and hear words in a certain way. Basically, everyone defaults to one of the below communication languages:
- YELLOW: Speaks the language of people and fun!
- RED: Speaks the language of power and control.
- BLUE: Speaks the language of perfection and order.
- GREEN: Speaks the language of calm and harmony.
When we understand the temperaments and learn to apply what we’ve learned, we can use our words to love others better and to live out the words of Ephesians 4:29.
On October 27th we are asking EVERYONE who has taken the assessment (whether as part of an “I Said This, You Heard That” small group, a volunteer team or maybe even at work) to wear something in the color of their dominant temperament to worship that day. There are going to be some fun surprises (Dreamed up by a certain very sanguine lead teaching pastor with the initials C. F.) that day too so you definitely won’t want to miss worship!
August 28, 2019
Safi Bahcall (author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries and a recent guest on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast) says he took a class in hypnosis in grad school at Stanford (where he was studying physics) after he noticed half the Stanford football team was in the class. The class was taught by a physician from the Stanford Medical School who had written one of the classic books on hypnosis.
Bahcall says that the professor began by debunking some of the myths around hypnosis and argued that it’s actually a natural state. The professor explained that, “in ordinary life there’s something called the magic number seven. As you sit there, as I sit here, or as anybody sits down in your audience and imagines the world around them, they can be aware of roughly seven different things around them plus or minus two.[i] . . . Hypnosis is really the state of bringing that down to one. You’re just focused on one thing. It turns out everybody, practically everybody, has the ability to go into a hypnotic trance…. we all go into this state of very heightened focus. If you’re listening to music or you’re deep in a book and when someone has to call your name a couple times and then you shake your head and snap out of it, you were in a trance, you were completely focused on just that one thing and that magic number seven plus or minus two in the world around you had just narrowed down to one.”
Focus seems hard to come by when distractions are as close as the phones we hold in our hands, but we don’t need technology to pull us away from what’s really important. Luke’s gospel tells us that when Jesus was at Mary & Martha’s home to share a meal,
40 …. Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.” (Luke 10:40-42)- drawing near to Jesus, sitting at his feet, and listening to what he says.
The apostle Paul knew something about staying centered:
12 Not that I have already . . . arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:12-14)
John’s gospel tells us that on the last night of Jesus’ earthly life he was with his disciples, and after he washed their feet, he continued to teach them, saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
On Sunday we announced that Kathleen Edelman, author of I Said This, You Heard That, will be our guest speaker on September 15th at all worship services. Kathleen will be sharing how understanding our own, and other’s, temperaments, can help us to live out Jesus’ commandment to love one another better by communicating in ways that build up rather than tear down (Ephesians 4:29). You will not want to miss Kathleen on September 15th- and please invite anyone you can think of who wants to learn to communicate more effectively.
In the weeks following Kathleen’s visit with us, we’ll be launching new 6 week video-based I Said This, You Heard That small groups meeting at various days/times. You can sign up for the groups on Sept. 15th – if you want to learn how you can facilitate a group at a home or one of our church campuses, reply to this eNote & we’ll be in touch.
Don’t be distracted by the “many things” that try to command our attention, but come to worship on September 15th to hear more about I Said This, You Heard That, and how our wiring “colors” (affects) our communication and to begin to imagine the impact we could have if we all focused on the “one thing” of loving one another.
[i] From an article by Harvard profession George A. Miller, The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information